Despite its size, the Netherlands is a top agricultural exporter. How’s this possible?
The agricultural intensification of the Netherlands started more than two decades ago, with the promise to produce twice as many food for as half as many resources utilised.
Today, the Netherlands is walking the talk. It has cemented itself the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world — only behind the United States — shipping more than USD 111 billion in agricultural goods in 2017.
In spite of being a small country, the Netherlands managed to make the most out of their available resources to yield products which easily dwarfs other larger nations in comparison. How did they make this possible?
The art that has been nearly perfected by the Netherlands is precision farming.
Their greenhouses are covering only small areas, however these are covered in LED lighting which allows the cultivation of crops 24/7. The climate is controlled exactly to the conditions suited for growth, soil quality is monitored, and irrigation is provided in exact amounts.
Everything is decided down to the last detail, ensuring that resources will not go to waste by providing excess to the crops. It is even sustainable, using geothermal energy and hydroponics to limit both carbon emissions and the use of water.
“The idea is we can steer everything very precisely. We use all the new techniques and all the innovations with the minimum impact on the environment,” according to Ad van Adrichem, general manager for Duijvestijn Tomatoes, a leading world exporter in the industry.
This principle is applied not only to planting and maintaining crops, but even when it comes to taking care of their livestock. Food waste is used to feed farm animals. About 90,000 tonnes of animal feed is generated through this method. One can only imagine how much cost has been cut down because of their resourcefulness.
None of the successes experienced by this country can be attributed to luck. The Netherlands’ Wageningen University is the top agricultural and forestry university in the world. Dutch companies are spending more and more on the agricultural sector (864 million euros in 2019) each year.
The country is so dedicated to agriculture that it even has a Food Valley, similar to the famed Silicon Valley in San Francisco. It is a region of growth, agricultural talent, innovations, and thirst for discovery and is home to more than 15,000 industry professionals.
The Netherlands took a huge risk and put a lot of investment in elevating their agricultural sector. Surely enough, all the hard work and research paid off.
Yet this is only the beginning. Our global population is continuously expanding. In the decades to come, feeding the world will become a challenge much greater than what we had faced in the time of antiquity and what we have been facing today. This challenge to feed the world is our collective responsibility to one another.
With such a future ahead of us, we need more nations like the Netherlands who, through innovation and perseverance, managed to break through what the world thinks are its limits.